Wednesday, March 21 , 2018, 12:28 am | Overcast 56º


Letter to the Editor: Highway 101 Widening Merits Long-Term Approach

Cars Are Basic Inc. was started as a grassroots reaction to intentional destruction and obstruction of roads and freeways. Many of these conditions are facing the Highway 101 widening through Montecito.

CAB attended the first "consensus" planning groups where Caltrans, the City of Santa Barbara and groups from Montecito showed up.

The past decade has seen the following: The Ortega Ridge Bike lane was built 100 percent over budget; the closing of the southbound Highway 101 on-ramp at Cabrillo; the very effective barrier wall preventing cut back of Ortega Ridge; and the building of the Hot Springs Roundabout.

Our proposals for these locations are unchanged:

a) Move the bridges inward allowing for right lane off-ramps and reopening the Cabrillo on-ramp.

b) Remove the Hot Springs roundabout, and move the Ortega Ridge bike path and put it where it should have been built on the mountain side of Ortega Ridge Road.

c) The Sheffield on-ramp without the ability to cut back into Ortega Hill should be closed and a modified northbound off-ramp configured.

d) HOV lanes: CAB has discussed this at length and come to the conclusion they are not in the best interest of safety and smooth traffic flow.

It is important for the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments board to understand the following from our 15-year perspective.

1) The Ortega Ridge bike path failed the stated purpose of providing "alternative transportation" to alleviate the need to widen Highway 101 (signed by then-Supervisor Naomi Schwartz).

2) Closing the southbound Cabrillo on-ramp was intentional, as an anti-car measure. Opening the southbound on-ramp at Cabrillo corrects this error, eliminates the massive rush hour and
holiday traffic on Coast Village Road, taking away pressures on Olive Mill Road. It reduces pressure on the Olive Mill southbound on-ramp and adds to general quality of life.

3) The Hot Springs roundabout has resulted in increased accidents, made pedestrian and bike travel dangerous, and increased exit speeds. Speeds making the Highway 101 northbound on-ramp dangerous for traffic turning left from Cabrillo. A standard intersection allows for greater off-ramp holding capacity, ease of access for commercial trucks servicing businesses, lowers exit speeds, gives breaks in traffic flow and allows tourists to turn left to the beach away from Coast Village Road.

4) We presented the above options to the board, and they were rejected by both SBCAG and Caltrans. Should anyone on staff or the board dismiss us again, we point out, the "current Caltans position" regarding the off-ramps is identical to this organization stance at the initial approval.

Regarding costs: Yes, this will be more expensive initially than the short-term bandage approach. Fifteen years ago, the cry was air pollution and destruction of "our way of life." Today, the same political factions champion high-density building and "alternative" transportation" as the cure for more and more cars. Car trips are a result of destinations in Montecito and Santa Barbara drawing tourists. These destinations attracted more than tourists. New residents to Montecito impact the very quality of life they are trying to save through ill-advised narrow intersections, designs that are dangerous and create congestion.

If rational planning had been allowed to work, most of the Cabrillo/Hot Springs/Coast Village Road construction would be complete, at less cost to the taxpayer. Instead, those who fought rational design won the day, resulting in problems currently facing Montecito.

The question before SBCAG is, will you follow the same decision process as before, or take the long-term functional approach? Failure to address the long term will mean 10 to 15 years from now, a similar fight will be once again before the community and SBCAG.

Scott Wenz, president
Cars Are Basic Inc.

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